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By Dr. Tom Kubistant, CSP Contributing Writer, Reno, NevadaThe economic collapse has affected many business enterprises. There are fewer and fewer services which are seen as “essential” anymore. Basic services like haircuts, auto repair, and even dentistry are increasingly being seen as elective. So, where does that leave us in the golf teaching profession? We all know that people need golf now more than ever, but how do we convince golfers to invest their precious resources in lessons? The key marketing strategy is to convey that playing golf is an investment which reaches far beyond the lessons. Simply put, we need recreation more. In essence, golf provides “re-creation.” Now, many of our courses and clubs have been implementing their downside marketing strategies and tactics. For the most part, these approaches are separate from lessons. So, this article is for you! I will present low-cost, cost-effective, and proven marketing tactics to enhance your lesson business. The first step is to become aware of those approaches which do not work. I am sure most of us can plead guilty to wasting money on risky, ill-conceived, and expensive ideas. Especially during these down times, some teaching marketing approaches do not have acceptable returns on investment: presentations to service clubs (with one exception cited below), associations with club “demo days,” working with high school golf teams, and even blogging. Granted, a few of you might have found success with the above, but for the most part these offer poor returns on investment. Never confuse activity with efficient action.
The following are proven marketing tactics which can enhance your teaching business. You might have to adapt them to your region and golfer demographics…and they do work!
- FOLLOW UP WITH EXISTING STUDENTS. You don’t have to “reinvent the wheel.” You have a grand resource with previous students who already know you. You should always have regular follow-up phone calls with all former students. Follow my “Rules Of Three”: after the lessons are done, regularly follow up in three days, three weeks, and three months. Ask questions about implementation and integration. Especially in later calls, encourage them to book a new series of lessons. Sell them on the benefits of how satisfying it is to keep progressing.
- USE FORMER STUDENTS AS REFERRAL SOURCES. Even if these students don’t want to renew, offer them a free playing lesson if they refer a friend who books a series of lessons. Share the benefits of such a playing session so they become excited to actively promote you.
- EMPLOY “ONE-SHOT” SEMINARS. A series of lessons initially may be too much of a commitment for new students. However, a specific one session seminar might appeal to them. Offer a one-hour group seminar on such specific topics as: short game, putting, course management, or making the high school team. Present great information, but also recommend how they should follow through with it.
- OFFER A FREE VIDEO SESSION. For those of you with the equipment, offer a free 15-minute video session. This should include brief feedback. Some video software also have the capabilities to include a split-screen comparisons with Tiger Woods or Lorena Ochoa. Many golfers love to see themselves, and this can provide the impetus for future lessons.
- DEVELOP A LAMINATED REMINDER CARD. Such little cards are magic! Create a laminated (people don’t throw away laminated things!) card summarizing a key dimension in playing golf. Sample topics could be: how to become ready to play, how to transfer one’s game, how to employ swing cues, how to salvage a round, or how to cope with pressure. Whenever you hand one out, give four of them so golfers can pass them along. (If you would like samples of my three reminder cards, please send me a SASE to USGTF RC, P.O. Box 13309, Reno, NV 89507 and I will be happy to send them to you.)
- DONATE A LESSON SERIES TO YOUR LOCAL PBS AUCTION. Such a donation will receive a lot of air time during auction week. You will gain grand exposure as both a top teacher and a community supporter.
- DEVELOP RELATIONSHIPS WITH LOCAL MEDIA. Television and print media are always looking for local experts to utilize. Especially during the majors or a new item about Tiger Woods, media like a local slant on these national stories. Buy them breakfast (they are always hungry!) and regularly send them pertinent information so you remain in their minds.
- WRITE A GOLF ARTICLE! Write an interesting and relevant golf article which you can offer to multiple local businesses’ and organizations’ newsletters. Common topics can be: business golf etiquette, common playing errors, how to transfer one’s game from the practice area onto the course, how to relax, how to cope with slow play, and of course, the recreational benefits of golf. Always include your “trailer” at the end of the article where you can be contacted.
- PRESENT TO PROFESSIONAL WOMEN’S GROUPS. Especially if you are a woman teaching pro, such professional groups love hearing from you. Offer a short presentation to local women’s groups (especially your EWGA chapter) on such topics as: business golf, networking, how to play with the “good ole boys,” and the rights of women golfers. I know many women teaching pros who have positioned themselves to be the sole teaching resource for women professionals.
- ORGANIZE GOLF RETREATS. Depending on your target markets, you can organize a weekend golf retreat at a nice resort. Such weekends are usually for four friends or associates where you all play two rounds, have morning and afternoon practice sessions, and even mealtime roundtable discussions. I know teaching pros who package such retreats around how to play the game, how to score more consistently, and even mastering the mental game.